Elisa has spent her career galvanizing communities in the technology industry, particularly for entrepreneurs and technologists. Elisa attended Cornell for her MBA and a Masters in Organizational Psychology before moving to Texas, where she worked for IBM. She participated in their acclaimed management rotational program, holding positions in HR, marketing, and finance, before building Watson’s initial R&D and sales and marketing teams. Austin’s entrepreneurial scene took hold and she moved on to help build two artificial intelligence companies before joining Galvanize as the evangelist for Austin. At Galvanize, she unites the technology community through events, partnerships, and marketing.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Miniature Schnauzer, Lola, riding and showing her horse Watson, traveling, and cooking international food. Elisa is a member of the inaugural class of Notley Fellows.
We sat down with Elisa to discuss what causes are close to her heart, the areas of social impact she wants to change, and the organizations she is passionate about participating in.
What specific issues are close to your heart and why?
I am very passionate about helping women and underrepresented minorities succeed in technology. I was always the only women in my math and science classes as I advanced in education and it was lonely. I got support from my family, but I think that I would have gone further in math and science had I been supported by a community of women studying the same thing and advancing in technology roles. Today there are more women and underrepresented minorities in tech, but it isn't representative of the population. I want to help more young women and minorities see and pursue careers in technology.
What organizations or causes are you currently involved with? How are you involved?
I am very involved in a lot of organizations around women and underrepresented minorities in tech. Right now, I'm focused on helping Female Founders ATX formalize their organization and plan for expansion across the state. I'm also working on a few initiatives in tech to bring skills to Veterans in software engineering and entrepreneurship. The more we can arm these groups with the tools and network they need to be successful, the more of these people will ascend to high levels of success.
What do you think local businesses can do to support nonprofit organizations?
More local businesses, particularly in the technology space, should be lending more of their expertise to enable nonprofits to become more sustainable. We have a lot of business acumen and can help create more sustainable business models for nonprofits, but often, businesses don't know where to start. Just by reaching out and offering to help, we can do a lot to impact nonprofits.
What for-profit companies (local or national) are currently doing an exemplary job of being socially responsible, in your opinion? How?
Social responsibility should be at the core of a business, like TOMS or The North Face. I think that the companies that build social responsibility into their business models, like TOMS, are the most impactful.
How can we make it easier for everyone to have a social impact?
We need to stop talking about social impact as something that is new and different. Social impact is making a difference, whether it's on a small scale as one person, or on a large scale for thousands of people. By lowering the barrier to entry and teaching others that making small changes have a big impact, people will see how easy it is to positively impact their communities.
Sometimes, social impact seems exclusive to large, wealthy organizations. How can we make impact accessible for everyone?
Social impact starts with an individual, just like doing good starts with individuals. We make choices every day to help others and give back to our community. The more frequently that we choose to do good, whether we are doing business or having fun, we make social impact more accessible.